Rising Sun, Maryland — A conservation easement recently donated to Cecil Land Trust (CLT) completes the permanent protection of a farm in Rising Sun that has been cultivated since colonial times. CLT works to protect farms, forests, and water resources in Cecil County. Part of Cecil County’s historic Nottingham Lots, the farm was originally protected in 2008 through a grant from the State of Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program by C.W. Brown, a farmer, conservationist and descendant of the area’s original Quaker settlers. His daughter Judi Brown’s donation in June of an easement on the remaining 2-acre lot of the original farm retired the development potential that remained on the land, thus ensuring protection of the entire farm for future generations.
The Nottingham Lots are an integral part of the history of Cecil County. In 1701, William Penn sent two brothers, James and William Brown, to the disputed southern border of his land grant to establish a politically strategic settlement that also offered fertile soil. The resulting Nottingham Lots gave Penn an inroad into Lord Calvert’s Maryland land grant and provided 37 lots of about 500 acres each to Quaker farmers willing to take the risk of settling there. In 1767, the Mason-Dixon survey left the bulk of the Nottingham Lots on the Maryland side of the line. The result of Penn’s strategic move has been a block of farmland that has remained fertile and sustainable for the past 300 years.
Among the names of the original Quaker settlers were the Reynolds, Richards, Kirks, Haines and the Browns. “C.W. Brown was an outstanding farmer and conservationist,” observes Bill Kilby, dairy farmer and President of the Board of Directors of Cecil Land Trust. “The Brown family farm, on Lombard Road, was at the center of pro-active farming techniques and sustainable practices.” The majority of the farm was protected in 2008 through a State grant for protection of the Fair Hill Rural Legacy Area, which Cecil Land Trust sponsors. Upon C.W.’s passing, the farm was sold to two Amish families, David K. Stoltzfus and Amos Stoltzfus and his son, Enos.
“It turns out that as a political strategy, the Nottingham Lots concept was not successful, but the Brown brothers did find fertile ground and the farming community that followed can still be seen today,” notes Mr. Kilby. “CLT is honored to have been able to work with C.W. Brown to protect this historically important farm with a Rural Legacy easement in 2008, and grateful to Judi Brown for the donation of this recent easement to protect the farm’s remaining lot.” Ms. Brown’s donation of the easement extinguishes the development potential of the remaining 2-acre lot of the original farm. The lot will be transferred to David K. Stoltzfus and will continue to be cultivated as part of the Stoltzfus farm.
“CLT thanks Judi and the Stoltzfus families for their continued support of CLT’s conservation efforts in the historic Nottingham Lots,” affirmed Jeremy J. Rothwell, CLT Board Member and City Planner for Harrington, Delaware, who was instrumental in bringing Judi’s donation to fruition.
Each June, the members of the area’s farming community come together to celebrate Dairy Night at the Calvert Grange. The village of Calvert is the center of Cecil County’s Quaker heritage. The Brick Meeting House stands on the crest of a hill overlooking many protected farms. The descendants of these early settlers have welcomed waves of immigrant farmers, the southern Scotch/Irish in the 20th century and now the Amish and Mennonites from neighboring Pennsylvania. Dairy Night at Calvert Grange reflects this mix of cultures, with over 100 family members eating and talking about the weather and crops. “It is an event that gives one a feeling of what it might have been like in the Nottingham Lots of 300 years ago,” mused Bill Kilby.
Dairy Night is also a reflection of the current vitality of the dairy industry and agriculture in the Calvert area, and the importance of land conservation to its future. “Having a number of preserved farms in my area gave me the confidence to build my operation to include a greenhouse and a new dairy,” explained Enos Stoltzfus, who now farms part of what was C.W. Brown’s farm. “This will be a farming community for generations.”